Dawgs About Town

It happens every year: the dog’s annual visit to the vet.  And let me just say that if I had any doubt as to the weirdness of my dogs, it is dashed to smithereens any time we get close to the vet’s.  My dogs love the vet.  And I do mean LOVE (as in all caps bold underline and italic) the vet.  Piper will wake out of a dead sleep whenever we get close and start whining up a storm as soon as we get into the parking lot.  All three of them will drag me into the office.  I cannot get the door open fast enough for them.  I have worked really hard to make it a positive place for them and have brought them to the vet for visits and treats and gotten them used to everyone there.  My thinking is that in the case of an emergency, I want to reduce the stress as much as possible to make a difficult situation a little less difficult.  Well apparently I did my job too well.  I’m lucky because all of the vets and staff at the clinic are amazing and I know my critters are in good hands.

We got into the office and everyone got weighed and saw the doctor and we collected our year’s supply of flea and tick control and heartworm meds and bloodwork and OH MY GAWD my credit card screamed as it tried to cling to the leather of my wallet.  Four digits; that’s all I will say about the bill.

As much fun as the vet is, I like to make our outings as fun as possible to keep the good vibes rolling so we went for a nice long hike in our local country preserve.  As we climbed out of the car, I noticed a lovely young black lab that was dragging it’s owner towards us.  It seemed friendly but when he led the dog one way, we went the other.  That would not be the last time that we would see that bouncing ball of energy or her not bad-looking owner.

Even with plenty of cars in the parking lot, we barely saw anyone else as we hiked trails that wound through tall grass and tall trees.  We were beginning to make our way back to the car when that same black lab came bounding around a corner, all floppy years and big feet.  At first she didn’t see us but her owner was more on the ball than the pup and she was back on leash as she kept straining towards Piper.  The owner told me that her best friend is a boxer and she just wanted to play.

Now let me just go off on a bit of a side note here: I’ve been single for a while and I’ve come to realize that it is because I am clueless when it comes to either possible interest or possible opportunities.  This being a prime example: had I been paying attention I would have said something along the lines of “Maybe she wants another boxer friend” which could have been chance to get to know the owner.  What do I do instead?  “Cool,” as we walk on by.  I was about 20 steps past when I literally groaned out loud with a full-on face palm.

I’m not going to say that I kept my eye out for that lab and Mr. Cutie.  I may have even lingered in the parking lot to make sure that the dogs were all strapped in.  For safety sake of course.  Eventually, once everyone was safely strapped in, we set out for our next fun stop of the day.

I have been chastised (jokingly I hope) several times at my local pet store for showing up without the pups so I just had to bring them in for a visit since we were passing by.  After they got their first set of treats from the staff, we went to the wall of toys.  They seemed interested in the “Chatterball” which is a ball that makes noise.  So of course, they got a Chatterball.  And more treats before we left the store.

I needed something to take a bit of the edge off after that vet bill so we went to Second Wedge Brewing Co.  I had been there before and knew that dogs were welcome.  We were greeted at the door by the resident brewery dog, another lab named Sadie.  I didn’t quite trust my pack to stay out from underfoot so they stayed on leash which seemed to bore Sadie.  And soon my pack was sprawled out on the floor around me.

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Outside the brewery

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The menu board

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The dogs wondering if they get some.

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A room with a view.

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The dogs with their new friend Sadie.  Jack doesn’t seem to care.

I tried a couple of the seasonal brews: Day Tripper and Smoked Wheat on Rye and fell in love with the Smoked Wheat.  A lovely smoky flavour running through lovely beer.  Soooooooooo good.  I could drink that for the rest of my life and be happy.  As I sipped away, the staff and other customers came to visit with the dogs who would sit up just to get their attention and then flop back over onto their sides.  Then I heard something that made my ears perk up: a food truck was coming by in a few hours.  I was torn.  Do I hang around in town for the truck or just go home.  And then I heard the menu: barbecue.  Problem solved.  Of course I was going to stay.

I collected the dogs and wandered down the main street with plenty of people stopping to pet the dogs or wave at us as they drove by.  We wound our way past people fishing in one of the town ponds then through main park and finally back to the brewery.

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Beside Elgin Pond on Youth Fishing Day.

The truck was parked out front but was still making final preparations so I decided to have one more beer.  I popped into the brewery and was shocked at how many people were in there, a huge difference from a short while ago.  There was another dog that was wandering around in there and he was not on a leash.  I was a little concerned with the dominant body language he was showing so I kept the dogs outside.  The patio is amazing and we were the only ones sitting outside.  OK I was sitting as the dogs were passed out on the ground around me.  Soon I saw people walking near the food truck so I drained my beer and went out to the truck.

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We had the patio all to ourselves.

We were still early and stood staring at the menu, trying not to look too pathetic as we waited alone outside the truck.  Soon others joined us and then the panel of Laura’s Casual Kitchen lifted to expose the interior and we saw the people frantically working inside.

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Laura’s Casual Kitchen truck.

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Patiently waiting.

In no time, I found myself the proud holder of a plate of smoked ribs, potato and egg salad, and a cornbread muffin.  I parked myself on a nearby concrete footing that happened to have a piece of metal sticking up that was a convenient leash holder.  Let’s just say the ribs did not last long and the potato/egg salad was really good.  I usually put eggs in my potato salad so it was nice to see it somewhere else.  I wasn’t fond of the cornbread and found it really dry.  The butter that accompanied it was so hard that it was torn apart to fall down my shirt.  All things considered though, it was a fantastic meal.  The dogs were more than happy to take care of all the crumbs that fell and they had a few samples of the ribs.  I had to ignore Leo’s attempts at Jedi mind tricks to hand over a rib.

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Potato/egg salad, smoked ribs, and a cornbread muffin.

I loaded, practically lifting, the dogs into the car (with some Smoked Wheat and Day Tripper to enjoy at home) and soon we were back home.  The dogs were so worn out that I had to bribe them out of the car.  They slid out, had a drink, and flopped in their usual sleeping spots: Piper sprawled on the couch, Jack on his mound of blankets, and Leo in his chair in my craft room.  Soon the sound of snoring echoed around me.

A Short Trip to Somewhere

I found myself with some time off and the first hint of a gorgeous day a few days ago so I figured “Let’s go somewhere.”  With my newly acquired Parks Canada Discovery Pass burning a hole in my pocket (OK it was pinned to my cork board but that doesn’t sound as good) it was an easy decision to make.  And as there are only five national parks in Ontario and a very limited amount of time, it was narrowed down to Georgian Bay Islands National Park.  So I loaded the dogs in the car, punched in the park name, and followed the directions from my pushy telephone.

I wasn’t really paying attention as I blindly followed the voice in the phone.  I was somewhat familiar with the route since we were headed towards Midland and as we continued north, I saw some ominous clouds ahead of us that had me worried we might have to cancel our trip.  But after a few turns, I was back facing the sunshine.

I turned down the last road and eagerly fixed my pass to the rearview mirror as I drove towards where I thought must be the gate.  Nope…no gate.  An administration building with a ton of vehicles but no gate.  Weird.  I brought the dogs out of the car and headed towards the first thing that looked like a trail.  There were no markings, no maps, but oh wait: there’s a sign that indicates the park border.  OK so at least I’m on national lands.

We went traipsing along the narrow but well-trodden trail.  I stopped at the edge of a river to let the dogs have a drink and of course they can’t just drink from the shore.  Oh no.  They have to wade in chest deep and drink that way.  All of them.  Great.  Wet dogs.  In fact, Piper wanted to go for a full-on swim and kept trying to wade deeper.  Leo dropped into the dirt as soon as he got out of the water and I cringed with every wiggle that sent more dirt into his drenched coat.  Jack, well Jack’s got that thick pug coat that holds water like a sponge so I had the pleasure of repeated shakes.  After they had sorted themselves out, back on the trail we went.

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The river.

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Can’t you just drink from the shore like normal dogs?

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Oh not you too Leo.

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Piper decided to strike a pose by herself.

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I’m always getting butt shots.

Then we exited onto a paved path.  I turned to look behind me, thinking that I had missed more trail as I was enjoying the sun.  Noooooooooo there was nothing else.  Huh a ten minute walk and I find myself on a paved trail behind some houses.  I knew that there were some small parks but this was a bit much; or not.  Oh well, we continued on.  There was a placard for the Trans-Canada Trail so obviously we had somewhere to go.  It was a nice view out over the water and we walked by some really creepy structure that I think was part of the shipping industry from a bygone era.  All I can say is that I would not have been surprised to see a clown peeking out a window, especially since I had just seen the preview for the movie “It”.

Everyone was super friendly and if I didn’t immediately acknowledge someone, like when I was stooping and scooping, they made sure to say “Hi” as they went past.  There’s no better way to meet people than when you’re trying to tie a bag full of poop.

The paved path quickly heated up and the dogs stopped pulling to sniff everything which is the universal signal for “I wanna go back”.  So we turned around and went back through the park.  Thinking the park had to be bigger, we took a few more trails but we still made it back to the parking lot in zero time.  I felt a little silly for having brought my big camera pack complete with tripod and hiking poles.  Bit of overkill with that.  So I left the big pack behind and brought only my camera as we wandered around a picnic area next to the parking lot.  There were some old stone foundations and I just could not resist stopping for a few pics.  Of course it would have been nice if I had brought my tripod for a group selfie but a wadded up jacket and nearby piece of stone will do almost as good a job.  Having said that, there are plenty for a blooper reel.IMG_0839

Feeling a tad bit peckish, we drove into Midland proper.  I had only been to Midland once before for last year’s Butter Tart Festival so I wanted to stroll the town without being run over.  It’s a very pretty little town with an outstanding coffee shop called “Grounded Coffee Co.”  I ordered my usual americano with a splash of cream and bit of sugar and got a blueberry scone because…well I wanted one.  I sat at the table outside the cafe on the sidewalk and entertained passersby as I shared itty bitty bites of scone with the dogs.  Some people would stop and get some dog lovin’.  There was one gentleman who slowly walked by with a cane and appeared as though he had had a stroke or something similar and the dogs were just so gentle, it made me so proud of them.  Especially Piper since she is a master of the full-body lean.

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You look like you need help with that.

After I had refuelled, we continued to walk to the shore where there is a nice waterfront area.  And then, I saw it.  Always looking for landmarks to pose the dogs I could not pass up the opportunity to get them in front of a giant metal goose.  Nor could I miss the seagull sitting on the head of the goose.  How cool.  Although I was distracted (and maybe a little over caffeinated) when I saw a man sitting by the lake with a red toque and red and white sweater.  Holy crap I found Waldo!!!!  It must have been quite a sight for the people sitting in their cars (I don’t know why) as I tried to pose the dogs, get a photo of the seagull, and covertly get a photo of Waldo.  I managed to get two of the three.  By this point, the dogs were bored of my shenanigans and soon sprawled out on the lawn while I snapped happily away.

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A seagull on a goose’s head! How awesome.

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The dogs are decidedly unimpressed.

Once I was done with photos, and Waldo had left, we sat on the end of one of the piers just to enjoy the sunshine and each others company.  After a bit, we walked back to the car, stopping for one more picture next to a boat.  Dark clouds were hanging low over the water and the wind was starting to blow so we hustled the rest of the way.

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Leo’s trying to figure out how to get the water far below. Piper doesn’t care.

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Jack is content to just chill.

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“Oh come on. Another pic?!”

I was giving the dogs some water before loading them in the car when I heard the first rumble of thunder.  I looked up and saw that the sky had gone from dark clouds to having a green tinge to it.  Uh oh.  When ever there are green skies you know there’s a real storm brewing and no sooner had I started the car, then the first drops fell.  Soon the rain was pouring down and my poor little car was getting pelted by hail and the wind blew us side to side.  Fortunately, the worst of it ended quickly and most of the drive was uneventful if too rainy for any side trips.

Oh and the park that I was in?  It wasn’t Georgian Bay Islands Park.  I’m not quite sure where I was.  I’m thinking it’s just a small chunk of land for their administration office and where they park their cars.  So it looks like we’re going to have to go back.  Only maybe this time with no hail.  But I’m not saying I won’t look for Waldo again.

 

All Good Things Must Come to an End

The road trip season is officially over for us.  We’ve been lucky that it has stayed this nice for this long so there’s no complaining.  While I did not have the time to take the pack on a real road trip, I did take them for a hike through a nearby forest.  I couldn’t help myself…I just had to share some of the pictures.

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Does it get any better than this?

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Getting their bearings

I tried to take some artsy “falling leaves” photos.  The dogs were surprisingly good with me tossing leaves over them.

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Is there something on my head?

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Not a care in the world.

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Jack: always ready to strike a pose.

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Something got their attention.

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A moment of stillness.

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And Leo at full speed.

After our hike, I took the dogs for a walk and stumbled across a local craft brewery that was closed.  Quite unfortunate because they’re dog friendly.  Yes you read that right: a dog friendly brewery!  Hopefully I can post about it soon.

And since the road trip season is mostly over in the soon-to-be Great White North, I have a series of posts I’m working on.  I’m open to any suggestions or ideas or questions that anyone wants to send my way.

A Trip to The County – Day 3

Starting mileage: 422.7

I woke up squished into some bizarre Tetris-like shape in the morning.  I’m not sure who was where but I know I was not alone on the bed.  I took all of the dogs outside and made friends with Alaska.  Of course, it’s not hard to be friends with a lab; all you have to do is throw a ball…over and over and over and over and over.

I went with my friends for breakfast at the Picton Harbour Inn and if you’re in the area, I highly recommend it.  The portions are huge and the food is great.  It’s a small dining room so don’t be surprised if you end up waiting for a bit.  Trust me: it’s worth it.

After we got back, I loaded up the dogs and headed out with directions to Huycks Bay.  I wanted to get one last swim in before leaving the County.  And the bay did not disappoint.

A long backroad abruptly ended at a thick band of trees and when we followed the short trail, we found ourselves on the now-familiar rock beach.  There were a few people close to the trail but we walked a short distance past them and I let the dogs play in the water.  I think sometimes they run in the water just to see the splashes.  IMG_7342

It’s fun to watch how they all take to the water differently.  Jack likes to wade in chest deep and then sit down which I find odd since he will often find the hottest part of the yard and go to sleep.  Piper does this funny snuffle in the ground with her hind end in the air and then starts running around trying to get someone to play with her.  And Leo just runs around being a pesky little brother.

I sat in the shade for a while until all three of the dogs came back to sit with me, each one dropping down onto the rocks panting their little hearts out.  We slowly walked back to the car with me hoping they would dry quickly.  Piper and Leo did with their nice thin coats.  Jack’s course puggy coat is like a sponge so he was still fairly damp as I put his harness on. Fortunately either he doesn’t stink or I’ve become accustomed to wet dog.  Either way, back on the road.

But not for long.  I saw a sign for Picnic Food Truck.  I had to check it out.  The truck was parked at Rose Hall Winery.  Now first off, I did not sample the wares this time.  Partially because there was a crowd of people.  I happened to pick the day that there was a play being held at the winery and I happened to arrive right before it started.  But the women working the bar outside were just all over the dogs, offering to get us water and a bowl for them, filling my water bottle.  Amazing.

At their recommendation, I ordered the fried chicken sandwich.  It was a long wait, much longer than the 15 minutes they said it would be.  I wasn’t the only one peeved at the wait times, as some people’s orders weren’t ready before the play started.  The wait wouldn’t have bothered me so much if I hadn’t watched a friend of someone in the truck place their order after me then get their food way before me.  I get that you’re friends and all but at least don’t make it so obvious.  I watched him walk away with a chicken sandwich and thought “What the …?”  Or maybe it was the owner or an investor.  Either way, it sucked.

When I finally got my sandwich, I took it over to a picnic table overlooking the vineyard and took a bite.  It was…okay.  Just okay.  Maybe it would have tasted better with a glass of wine.  I didn’t bite into it and feel the earth move.  Maybe I just got my hopes up too high.  The chicken was crispy.  The bun was good.  The mayo was nice.  It was just all…okay.

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Fried chicken sandwich from Picnic.

We drove back to the 401 and made our way westbound.  I toyed with the idea of stopping for donuts again but when I thought back to everything I had eaten over the past couple of days, I decided that I would save the donuts for another time.

I was stopped at a light after we left the highway and reached back to pet the dogs.  Big stretch for Piper, then a sweep back and okay there’s Leo.  I waved my hand around.  Where’s Jack?  I snuck a peek and saw that Jack had worked his way onto the floor of the backseat.  He was still in his harness, just stretched out on the floor.  When he saw me looking at him, he wagged his tail then closed his eyes and went to sleep.  He’s done it before and seems to like it since he will jump back up on the seat if he wants to.  I can’t imagine that it’s comfortable but if that’s how he wants to ride…

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I have no idea how this is comfortable…

That evening we parked the car and the dogs quickly found their sleeping spots while I unloaded the car.  It’s the part of road trips that I like the least since it signals the end of the ride.  I unpacked the least amount that I had to and sat on the couch and soon found myself surrounded by sleeping dogs as I closed my eyes for a rest.

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She didn’t seem to mind that I stood up.

Finishing mileage: 682.2

A Trip to the County – Day 2

Starting mileage: 278.3 km

I’ll admit that I did not sleep well and I’m not entirely sure why.  Part of it was because I had brought a different, slightly cooler and larger, sleeping bag.  This meant that little Leo was able to worm his way inside the sleeping bag and roll up at the base of it.  I’ve tried keeping him out but he somehow manages to slip in when I’m sleeping.  The fact that this bag was a bit more spacious meant that he would be even more comfortable than he is in my mummy bag.  It could have also been the sting on my left leg.  It was not as bad as it had been and the swelling was less distinct but the redness had spread to an alarming degree.  Since it wasn’t as painful, I tried to ignore it as much as I could.  Eventually it was light enough to break camp.

The owner showed up just as I was packing up the tent and I learned a lot about the history of the campground in a very short period of time while talking with her: how she and her husband had camped there 20 years ago and when it came up for sale only five years ago they bought it.  By that time it had been abandoned and fallen into disrepair.  It was obvious that the buildings still needed some work but the grounds were one of the nicest private location we had stayed in.  And the camp sites were HUGE.  Probably would have been a good idea to ask where I was.

Finally we were back on the road and stopped at the first diner we came to.  I still didn’t really know where I was and didn’t really want to know so I had no idea where Cherry Valley was in relation to everything else in The County.  Mike’s Diner is your typical greasy spoon and the waitress (I think Mike’s wife) is one of those old school folks that calls you “Hon”.  Love it.  The food was good and decent portion sizes which is always a bonus since the dogs have to get their little samples.IMG_7334.JPG

After breakfast we aimlessly drove around, stopping at Little Bluff Conservation Area and Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area.  It was hot so I was happy that there were so many places for the dogs to swim.  Or in Jack’s case, sit in the water and just relax while the other two splashed around.  Considering how hot the day had become, I was surprised by how few people were out.  And with it being so hot, we basically ignored most of the trails, only walking what we needed to get into the water.  The shoreline around this section of Lake Ontario is rocky so if you go there expecting sand, you’ll be very disappointed.  These spots do offer spectacular views over the water and the lake stays shallow for quite some distance which makes it great for children.  And dogs.

There was one place that I did want to go to while we were in the area: Three Dog Winery.  How could I not go with my three dogs?  The winery bit is just an added bonus.  When we got there, I asked if I would be able to take the dogs for a walk.  The staff were so friendly and told me I could talk them anywhere on the property and since there were no other dogs, they could go off-leash if I wanted to let them run.  And then come back for wine.  YES!!  We did walk through part of the property but the dogs were tired from swimming and it was hot so soon we found ourselves back in the tasting room.  The dogs splayed out on the concrete floor, after visiting their new best friends, while I sampled my way through the wines.  They were very good but after splurging on ciders, I left with a bottle of Pinot Grigio and the Rose.

By the time we left the winery, I had heard from my friend and started driving to his place. We had a little time to kill so I stopped when I saw a bistro called Agrarian.  I stopped in there for a little caffeine (it had been hours since my last hit after all) and I found that I could not stop staring at the tarts on display.  The lemon curd blueberry tart was calling out to me so I couldn’t leave it behind.  The flavour was very good but the pastry was too delicate for the filling.  I should have taken a spoon to eat it since all the crust disintegrated as I tried to lever it out out the tin which was disappointing.

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It’s so pretty.

My friends live on the outskirts of a small town outside of Picton and retirement seems to be treating them well which makes me so happy.  We went out for dinner at a local pub that I think was called The Picton Pub but I could be wrong.  It was a small place in the middle of nowhere but the food was fantastic.  I could have listed off what we ate and pictures of how well it was presented, but I put all that on hold and just enjoyed a conversation and re-connecting with friends.

Now I must admit that I was a little worried about the dogs being left by themselves and with Piper’s tummy issues, I half expected to walk back into the house to a mess.  Nope.  Their dog Alaska and my three were waiting for us but not a single thing seemed to be out of place.

We sat and talked for a little longer and then with full bellies, we all went to bed.  They have a spare room in the basement and the dogs were, as usual, out before I was.  Alaska seemed to miss her new friends and slept against the door most of the night.  I know because I could hear her shifting every so often over the chainsaw that is a snoring Jack.

A Trip to The County – Day 1

It hit me like a ton of bricks as I was looking at weather reports, flipping through books, overworking my search engines: I had lost our way.  I mean I was actually doing research on places to go.  So I closed my computer, packed the car, and headed east.  Why east?  If we made it to the coast, I’ve been having a craving for seafood.  If we didn’t, I haven’t been east much so why not.

Standard Road Trip Rules would apply.  Since this was going to be a short trip, I packed a bottle of Merlot but more on that later.

I took a straight drive to the 401 since there’s a lot of city to clear.  However, coffee was soon beckoning and I stumbled upon Skylight Donuts in Bowmanville.  I’ll admit to some trepidation as it was a brick shack in the parking lot of a gas station but when I rolled up, the glass window was stacked with row upon row of donuts.  I asked what was popular and was told the cinnamon swirl, apple fritter, and cherry.  So I got one of each.  But the best part was that when she handed me my coffee there, resting on the lid, was a dog cookie.  Wow!  Talk about the little things.

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Dooooonnnuuuuuuuts

I left the parking lot and noticed signs for the Dave Boyd Memorial Dog Park which just happened to be an off-leash dog park.  Coffee, donuts, and off-leash park?  Could this trip have started any better?!  It’s not the nicest park we’ve ever been in: it’s in an industrial area and is relatively flat with just grass but it has two large sections with good fencing, sturdy gates, and lots of benches.  The dogs had a romp around as I crushed a surprisingly good cup of coffee and cinnamon swirl.

Back onto the highway for a little bit longer.  Well until I saw The Big Apple.  It literally is a giant apple that is next to the 401.  I had never been there so I decided to stop.  It’s a nice little tourist spot that I could see being really popular with kids.  They have a petting zoo and a train and there are some nice souvenir things.  You can actually go inside the big apple to an observation deck at the top.  I didn’t because I wasn’t sure how the dogs would handle all the stairs.  There were also rabbits running around all over the place but the dogs didn’t really care about them.  I guess it’s because we have rabbits running around at home.  They were rather intrigued by the goats though.  I actually saw the goat version of Leo who was walking around the pen then just stopped, dropped, and rolled and rolled and rolled.    While we were there, I just had to see what was available by way of food.  Strangely enough, apple products dominated (sarcasm doesn’t translate well into type).  I briefly thought about getting something to eat but just grabbed an americano which was meh.  Then I noticed the counter for wine and ciders.  Well now…A few quick samples and I left with a few bottles.

I decided to stay off the 401 at that point and take Highway 2 as we continued east.  It’s lovely country driving and then when I saw the signs for Presqu’ile Provincial Park, I stopped to do some hiking.  It’s fairly flat and the trails are wide and well maintained which is great for the dogs.  The first trail we hiked was the Owen Point Trail. It hugs the shore but you can’t see the lake because of tall thick grasses.  And when I say tall I mean over my head and then some.  There are five lookouts that do lead to the beach but dogs are prohibited because they would disturb the shore birds.  I understand why, it just would have been nice to sit near the water.

Then we went to the Marsh Boardwalk Trail.  It’s another short loop trail that is almost entirely on a boardwalk with a couple of lookout towers.  We were about halfway along when I stopped for a second and Piper leaped off the boardwalk.  I thought she just wanted to get into some water.  Nope.  About 20 paces later…If you’re at all squeamish you might want to skip to the next paragraph…Piper all of a sudden has diarrhea all over the boardwalk.  So there I am, with pooh bags trying to clean the mess as best as I can.  We haven’t seen anyone for a while and now of course a family of four just happens to walk by.  I tried to pull the dogs to one side as best as I can while not stepping in the mess and making sure they don’t step in the mess and making sure the family doesn’t get mobbed by dogs.  Once I’ve smeared up as much as I can, I tried to rinse the boards down with my water bottle with no luck.  I’ve got nothing else on me that I could use and there’s no real vegetation as the weeds have been cleared from around the walk.  And then I spot a lone stub of a cattail just within reach and snap that off, using it like a giant cotton swab to wipe down the boards.  Finally I stood, stretched my back, and continued along.

We caught up to the family of four and just after we passed them, I felt a fire all of a sudden in my left calf.  I’m not kidding; it was like someone jabbed a lighter into my leg.  It was so sudden I almost yelped and buckled but seeing as how there were four people that were probably already wondering about me, I just gritted my teeth and looked down.  I saw nothing.  A few more steps and I had to stop again, lifting my leg up to contort into some kind of bizarre position.  Finally I spotted a tiny red mark but I had felt no bugs on my leg and did not see anything embedded.  I kept walking and eventually the fire did ease but it felt as though my calf were being pinched in a vice.

Ignoring whatever was happening in my leg, we drove further into the park and I stopped at the day lot.  There were a bunch of picnic tables on the edge of the lake and we climbed down to the waters edge where I had a sandwich that I had packed and the last of the donuts.  I let the dogs swim for a little while before we left and then we stopped at a lighthouse to check the view.  After that, there was one more trail just inside the park boundary.  It was another short loop but by this time, the dogs were slowing down a little so I knew it was time to go.  Back in the car and eastbound we go.

Prince Edward County (affectionately known as “The County”) is a hub for foodies, wineries, and artisans.  In just under 1 050 km2, there are almost 40 wineries alone, never mind breweries and cideries.  That in and of itself would not be a reason for me to go since I can really hit those until Piper learns to drive, but add on some gorgeous scenery and damned fine restaurants and it’s worth going. I also have an old friend who lives there so I was hoping to stop by at some point.

First stop: Sandbanks Provincial Park, hopefully to spend the night.  It is a very popular park so I had little hope of getting a site  at the last minute.  Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when I was told it was full.  I began checking some private grounds around but most of them were also full and the ones that weren’t had trailers crammed in like sardines.

Finally I stumbled onto a campground.  I wasn’t really sure where I was at this point but when I drove in there were plenty of empty sites.  After calling the number at the office, I spoke with the owner who told me to pick a site and she’d see me when she was done her errands in town.  Cool.  I picked a site and set up the tent, trying to keep the dogs out until I had the bedding in so they wouldn’t puncture the floor.  I went to get my backpack and the three of them snuck into the tent and were sprawled out before I had turned around.  I had a good laugh at that and sat with them for a minute.

When I opened my eyes, it was almost dark out.  I was laying with my body on the sleeping pad and my legs on the dog blankets.  Piper was sleeping on my pillow, Leo was in front of me and Jack was curled up at my feet.  I had no idea that I had been so tired.  I had also forgotten that I had left the trunk of my car open with the key in the lock.  Not like me at all.  We went for one short walk down to the shore and then went back to the tent.  I was so tired that I had forgotten about my bottle.  I would make up for it later…

A Short Little Trip

With the heat wave continuing and showing no signs of breaking any time soon, there haven’t been much in the way of adventures.  Jack did have his own little (mis-) adventure but that doesn’t really count.  After getting antsy for a change of scenery, I threw the dogs in the car and we went to our local farmer’s market.  I have brought the dogs there before and for some of the regulars, they are like little celebrities.

Unfortunately when I parked the car, I noticed that several of the booths that I had been looking forward to were not there.  No bakery truck with fresh strudel, no coffee (???), and the lady that sells jams and jellies wasn’t there.  Even the woman that I buy my greens from wasn’t there.  Her husband was but she always visits with the dogs.

Oh well.  We were there and I was on something of a mission.  My sister-in-law has started making dog bandanas so I volunteered the dogs to be models.  Or would they be brand ambassadors?  It’s not official yet as she is still getting her sewing legs but considering that she just started less than a week ago, the bandanas looked great.

There wasn’t much in the way of traffic at the market so after buying strawberries and kale (the dogs sampled the strawberries to make sure they were ripe) we went to the pet store to get food for the boys.  It took me a second to figure out why Piper was whining in the back.  She’s normally not a vocal dog at all.  I clued in when we got into the parking lot and she was standing in her harness.  She is very good at recognizing locations.  Heck I can’t even drive near the vet without her getting excited.  She LOVES the vet.  Actually they all love the vet’s office but Piper is the only one that watches out the window.  Weird dogs.

And they love the pet store.  They always get lots of attention from the folks that work there.  And treats.  Tons of treats.  Sometimes as a joke, I take them to the wall o’ toys and tell them pick out something to take home.  I know people give me the “you’re crazy” look behind my back but you have to have fun somehow.

I was going to go back home but then an idea occurred to me and I made a quick U-turn.  For a second I had thought about stopping in town and wandering the pavement but then I had a better idea.

We went to Goodwood and stopped at Annina’s Bakeshop.  The last time we had been there was just after Piper’s vestibular episode, when I realized she was still able to travel. We had met a wonderful couple there.  Maybe part of me hoped they would be there again.  Or a friend of mine who rides crazy distances on his bike.

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Annina’s Bakeshop in Goodwood.

Neither happened to be there but the gelato stand was up and running.  I eyed it intently then went inside to place my order: a coffee and the special of the day which happened to be prime rib on a bun.

I picked a table in the far corner of the lawn where we would be apart from everyone else and I enjoyed my coffee while the dogs had some water and shade.  I had expected my sandwich to just be some beef on a bun, maybe with a leaf of lettuce.  But it was so much more!  A soft bun with buttery slices of prime rib, horseradish aioli, crispy onions, and (get this) mashed potatoes!  I pulled off a few tiny little pieces of beef for the dogs but I destroyed that sandwich.  It must have been horrifying to watch.

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The prime rib sandwich. You can just see Leo hovering under the table.

And then I could resist the siren call of the gelato no longer.  OK well I had to wait for a few more minutes because the dogs were getting some loving and compliments on their fashion sense.  The best part about this stand is that the owner doesn’t ask what you want; he just starts giving you samples.  I thought the last time it was because I was staring at the menu.  Nope.  He asked if I wanted gelato and when I said yes, little spoons with gelato kept being pushed into my hand.

I left with a small cup of the coconut gelato and I sat in the trunk of my car as I rationed out tiny little smears to the dogs.

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Waiting for more coconutty goodness.

Today was a short adventure but one they enjoyed as they are now sprawled around me, the sound of snoring loud in the air.  Sometimes you need to have a local adventure to really appreciate where you live.

Jack had an Adventure Without us

With the heat wave that we just can’t shake, there hasn’t been much in the way of travel.  I just can’t bring myself to pack the dogs in the car to go somewhere too hot to explore.  So we’ve been taking it easy at home.

There’s a stream that runs through an open field near home.  I like to take the dogs there after a run so I can stand in the river and cool my legs and they get to swim to cool off.  My dogs obviously didn’t the the memo that boxers, boston terriers, and pugs don’t like water because these guys won’t stay out of water, especially Jack.  The funny thing about that is that when I first got him he did not want to be anywhere close to water.  He would try to drink while standing as far from the water as he could.  Finally one really hot day, I picked him up, held in water just deep enough that he couldn’t touch the bottom, and waited until his thrashing settled into a dog paddle before I let him go to shore.  After that he was a bona fide water dog.

Now before I go on, I want to stress something: my dogs are good dogs.  They are well-mannered, have zero food aggression, and usually come when called.  There is a teeny tiny percentage when they ignore me.  And by they, I mean Jack.  Sometimes his stubborn puggy brain shuts off.  As he did the other day.

We were walking to the river when a friend called my phone.  We chatted as I waded into the water and I watched as Jack disappeared into the thick stands of grass on the shore as he usually does.  I called and then called again and he did not appear.  I paused listening for the tags on his collar but nothing.  Crap.

I hung up on my friend and started calling, becoming more insistent with each passing moment.  Finally I decided to try and track him down and eyed the bank.  We have stinging nettle and it grows THICK on the banks.  For anyone that hasn’t had the dubious pleasure of stinging nettle, you’re lucky.  Just brushing against the leaves will raise burning welts on your skin that easily last an hour.  I know a few ways to lessen the effects but I still try to avoid these plants.

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Hunting for our missing Jack.

I was able to find a path through the grass and climbed my way over fallen trees and branches then pushed my way through thick underbrush, all the while calling for my little miscreant.  I decided to go back to the river, knowing how he is drawn to it.  I crash through the dead branches again then step into the river.  I found a silty patch and my left leg sank up almost to the knee and when I braced myself on the bank and pulled up my foot, I was without a sandal.

So now I had to dig around in mud the consistency of pudding with my arm buried up to the shoulder as I rooted around for my missing sandal.  I finally pulled up a massive clump of muddy reeds along with my sandal.  After slogging through the mud, I was able to wash off my footwear before weighing the options about how to best track down Jack.

I walked back to the beach where we had entered the river but no Jack.  So I decided to go a bit further back downriver.  And there, peeking out at my from the grass was Jack.  He just looked at me with that “What?” expression.  I was so relieved I almost forgot how scared I was.  Needless to say, our swimming time has been curtailed lately.  Although I do wonder what he was after…

The End of the Trip

July 2, 2016

Starting Mileage: 540.2

The morning in the KOA seemed to be a little less hectic which is good because my sleep had been far from restful.  I wanted to find the couple who’s amorous activities had woken me up at 3:00 am and give them a high five.  Unfortunately there were a number of suspects around me, so I just broke camp and rolled out of there.

We headed into Owen Sound and stumbled across a farmer’s market.  I love farmer’s markets but this was considerably larger than the ones I am used to, actually closing down a stretch of downtown.  I circled the vicinity looking for a parking spot but there were none to be found within a decent hike.  And with a crowd that large I decided to continue on, looking longingly in the rearview mirror.

I stopped at the Dragonfly Cafe just outside of town.  Not only is it a restaurant but they also make over 30 different kinds of bread there. I ordered the french toast made with cinnamon nut bread and bacon which we devoured on the patio. The french toast wasn’t pretty but what it lacked in looks it made up in flavour.  There was a steady stream of people and the small dining room was packed.  Always a good sign.  And the coffee was decent.

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Cinnamon nut bread french toast and bacon. What a great way to start the day.

I had two destinations that I had identified after studying the map the previous night and I soon found myself parking in the lot at Beaver Valley Orchard and Cidery just outside of Kimberly.  The barn had been converted into a tasting room and if I didn’t have a car load of canine waiting for me, it would have nice to belly up to the bar and enjoy samples.  Since that wasn’t an option, I just grabbed a bottle of each of the ciders they had: their plain cider, a ginger cider, and a bumbleberry cider.  With my purchases safely stored in the car, I took the dogs for a walk.  A patio was near the barn and some gardens with a small stream flowed towards the back of the property.  Of course the dogs had to get right in the water.  We sat in the shade for a while and it would have been easy to stretch out on the grass and just let the day pass.  But I never really was one for easy and we had one more stop I wanted to make.

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Jack contemplating life at Beaver Valley Orchard and Cidery.

As we were driving through Markdale there something about one storefront that caught my eye and I nearly twisted my head right around to see…yes…a roastery!  I quickly parked the car and bounded into Fire & Ice for a much needed americano before we were back on the road.  It’s a cafe, roastery, and bar all rolled into one.  Piper seemed to give me the dirty eye since I didn’t take them for a walk.  Well I had plans for that and we went to Eugenia Falls Conservation Area.

The conservation area is on the edge of Flesherton and it was very busy.  The trails are easy to walk, well marked, and there’s even a stretch of the Bruce Trail so we were able to hike a bit more of it.  There’s one place right near to the top of the falls where you can walk across the rocks and get to the other side, which we did and then after stepping into the shade, we found a stone arch.  Just an arch.  It was kind of haunting.  With the crowds of people and dogs, and heat, we didn’t stay long and were soon back on the road.

Fortunately my second destination was in Flesherton: Leslieville Cheese Market.  After sampling and more sampling, I left with a Hungarian paprika cheddar dip, three very different cheeses, and a grilled cheese sandwich.  I sat on the curb with the dogs and shared my sandwich as the people driving by stared at us.

We went for a short walk and when we crossed the street we found Highland Grounds.  I looked around for a place to tie the dogs but couldn’t find anything.  I stood on the sidewalk, looked back at the car, at the cafe, at the car, at the cafe, at the car, at the cafe then walked back to the car.  They piled in, I drove the 200 metres to the cafe, and parked the car.  When I went inside, what I can only assume was the owner seemed to have been waiting for me and asked if he could give the dogs treats.  I didn’t think they would mind so I told him they would like that.  I offered to get them out but he declined, saying this would be easier.  I couldn’t argue with his logic on that one.  I left armed with an iced coffee, somehow leaving all the baked goods in the display cases.

I drove the back roads, slowly making my way south east, not really planning to stop anywhere.  Then we came into Brechin and I saw the Sweet Tooth Caboose.  Well, I have a sweet tooth and I must admit the sign proclaiming world famous butter tarts piqued my interest.  Of course, the menu for ice cream piqued it even more and when I stepped back from the caboose I was clutching a cone of salted caramel truffle ice cream and a butter tart for the road.  Anything that can combine ice cream, caramel, and chocolate is good in my books.  The dogs wanted to help me with the ice cream but they made due with little tiny bits of plain cone.

In less than an hour, we were back home.  It was one of our shorter trips and the impromptu Canada Day trip was not something that I would normally have done.  But it somehow seemed so right.  We were greeted by strangers with shouts of “Happy Canada Day!”, Canadian flags flying everywhere, listening to coverage of celebrations in Ottawa on the radio.  It wasn’t just that people were happy to have a long weekend but they seemed happy to be HERE and experiencing the beauty that can be found in the wilderness that is inherently Canada.  There were none of the majestic mountains of the Rockies or the dramatic coastline of the Maritimes but there was something different and something very special.

Finishing mileage: 814.2

The Rain and the Trail

July 1, 2016

Starting Mileage: 346.8

HAPPY CANADA DAY!!!

Too bad the day started off the way that it did.  We’ve been lucky with the weather so far and when the forecast calls for rain, we are usually able to get a hotel.  The problem with freestyle road tripping is that is not always an option, especially on a long weekend.  And when I woke up, I heard the patter of rain on the tent.  Fortunately it was a fairly light rain and I was able to pack the tent without getting drenched.  I put the dogs in the car and they seemed content to lounge about and wait for me.  I ended up sleeping quite late so it was only a short wait for Lone Wolf to open by the time we were all loaded.  I was on my way back into Tobermory to get a coffee when I saw Little Tub Bakery.  That will do just fine.  I got a good cup of coffee and bought some strawberry jam, pickled garlic scapes (yummy), and asked if they had anything that they were known for.  I should have expected that they would say the butter tarts.  I ordered a plain and sat outside with the dogs under an awning so they could have their breakfast.  I will say it was a damned fine butter tart, even if the raisins were a bit of a surprise.

And then to Lone Wolf.  It looks like a shed in a parking lot next to a trailer that’s open 24 hours to sell coffee and smokes I’m guessing.  I was there a little early and was staring through the windows at the women working inside, trying to will them to open faster, hoping my puppy dog eyes might garner some sympathy.  It didn’t.  When they finally did open, I ordered the whitefish and chip dinner.  If the closest you ever get to fish is Captain Highliner in the freezer section, you will not like this because it tastes like fish.  I started chatting with one of the women working there and she told me how she comes from a family of fishermen and they work for the man that owns Lone Wolf.  The only way to get fresher fish is to catch it yourself.  It came with a fantastic cup of tartar sauce and some coleslaw that was covered with fresh dill.  It was so good I didn’t share any of the fish with the dogs.  They did have a few little bites of fries but the fish was mine.  I considered going back for more but the parking lot was filling up and we had some road to put under the tires.

Highway 6 is the only road that seems to lead out of the Peninsula and I kept my eyes open for things to do.  I saw a sign for a lighthouse and decided to check that out.  The signage left much to be desired and there were a few wrong turns before we figured out where we were going.  To be fair, there was a truck in front of me that was doing the same thing so I wasn’t the only one that didn’t know where I was going.

We finally ended up on a long, narrow, dirt road that ended at Cabot Head Lightstation.  There’s a small museum in the lighthouse and some trails that run along the water.  I couldn’t take the dogs into the lighthouse so we hiked the trails instead.  The museum and grounds were maintained by volunteers and they rely on donations to keep everything running instead of charging admission.  For some reason, it makes me feel better about paying rather than have someone tell me how much to pay.

A short trip down the road and I saw Harvest Moon Organic Bakery.  Well I’m never one to let a bakery go past so in I went and I left with a loaded scone consisting of a scone with whipped cream and strawberries and a chocolate crossie (chocolate clusters with coffee beans, crunchy flakes, and a heavy hit of ginger).  This was one time the dogs had to sit out since the scone had currants and the crossie was chocolate.  Then back on the road.IMG_7040

But not for long because we stopped a short distance away in Lion’s Head and hiked a section of the Bruce Trail while there was a break in the rain.  It was a little strange for me because this trail went through town and in one section, along a driveway.  I was a little confused when I came out of the trees and was staring at a shed and the back of a car.  I started looking around thinking I had missed a turn but then I saw blazes on the shed and some boulders along the driveway.

So there I am walking along this driveway and I look to my right and there’s the water and more rocky beaches.  There are steps leading to the beach so I figure “why not go look down there?” A woman was standing on the beach and we exchange greetings as we passed each other on the steps.  Then I hear her talking to people who came up behind me and apparently the steps are not part of the trail and they are her private steps.  Well didn’t I feel the ass.  Of course there were no signs indicating that and she could have told me when we were face to face.  I thought for a split second that maybe she was scared of the dogs but she didn’t give that impression when I spoke to her.  We walked down the beach for a while and when we made our way back, there was a statue blocking the steps.

Another thing I noticed was just how volatile the weather can be.  I had often heard about how unpredictable the Great Lakes are and we experienced it first hand.  The skies never really got clear but it would go from overcast to downpour and back again in the matter of seconds.  Another reason to keep our hikes short.  The dogs love to swim but they hate the rain.  Go figure.

While walking along the harbour, I learned where the town got it’s name.  There’s a section of cliffs across the harbour that apparently has the profile of a lion’s head.  I couldn’t see it.  What I did see was a stage set up just off the water and I could only imagine how awesome a show there would be.DSC05061

As we were leaving Lion’s Head, I passed by a sign for summer sausage outside a house.  I turned into the driveway and there was a sign on the front door saying to go around back.  So I go around to the back and on the garage is another sign saying to use the side door and the sausage is in the fridge.  I started to giggle as I opened the door and sure enough there’s a fridge with a price list on it.  Not only were there summer sausages but also pepperettes.  Well I bought a half sausage and a pack of pepperettes and turned to leave, after depositing my payment of course, and there in the yard was a husky.  In it’s run.  Just staring at me.  I didn’t even see it blink.  I almost felt guilty for some reason.  “I paid.  Really I did,” I said to the dog, even pausing to redo the math just to make sure.  I left, but not without a picture.

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Well I didn’t get very far before I stopped into a farmers market.  I already have a pantry full of preserves and there wasn’t much in the way of vegetables that I could take with me, but there were strawberry and carrot muffins and those travel very well.  I asked about a good place to eat and was given directions to a diner just down the road.  Now let me tell you dear reader: if there was ever a time that talking to locals paid off, this was it.

I stopped in at Katemma’s Diner and if I hadn’t been told how to get there, I never would have found it.  I ordered the burger on a recommendation and it was by far the best burger I can remember having.  The patty was juicy and flavourful and the bun was perfect.  I took one bite and literally felt my eyes bug out of my head.  The dogs got a few crumbs from the bun and some fries.  I ate the burger.  All of it.  I don’t think I breathed at all.

I went back inside to tell them how much I enjoyed it and ended up speaking with the owner for a few minutes.  There were also a few regulars that came in and I always love to watch the banter between the customer and proprietor.  It’s why I love going to independent businesses.  I had noticed a steady stream of cars going down one road and asked what was down there.  She told me they were probably going to Shoreline Drive.  Well then…so were we.

Shoreline Drive follows the water and when I first turned onto the road, I was stunned to see the sky full of kite surfers.  I had never seen so many in one place and I stopped to watch them for a while.  We went down the road from the kite surfers and walked along the shore a little but I didn’t want to stress the dogs out too much.  With all the rock climbing we had done, I figured a few short and easy stretches would be good for everyone.

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Kite surfing.

I wound my way through the roads, crisscrossing to the other side of the peninsula until we ended up in Wiarton which is known for one little fella: Wiarton Willie, an albino weather forecasting groundhog.  But before we went to see Willie, we stopped at Northern Confections.  Oddly enough, all I got was the coffee.  And an agricultural and culinary map of the area.  Score!

There is a large stature dedicated to Willie and we stopped for a few quick photos, causing ooooohs and aaahhhhs as people watched the dogs pose but the park was busy setting up for fireworks so we very quickly left.DSC05125

As I was driving along, I noticed a sign for a KOA Campground and decided to see if they had spots available.  One of my co-workers had raved about them so I decided to check them out.  And they did have a spot available.  Then as soon as I drove to my site, I felt my heart sink.  There were so many people and the sites were TINY.  But it was a place to rest my head and a chance to spend at least one more day out roaming so I pitched my tent and went to sleep.